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China Seen Freezing Lending Rate, Cutting Mortgage Benchmark

China’s property sector and weak consumer demand continue to drag on its economy, despite a bounce-back in industrial output

China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating PBOC former head of monetary policy Sun Guofeng.
The People's Bank of China (PBOC). Photo: Jason Lee/Reuters


China is set to hold firm on its benchmark lending rates on Monday, though the odds have shortened on a mortgage reference rate cut as Beijing looks to shock-start its crisis-hit property sector back into life.

The loan prime rate (LPR), normally charged to banks’ best clients, is calculated each month after 20 designated commercial banks submit proposed rates to the People’s Bank of China.

The survey of 33 market watchers, conducted this week, found 27, or 82% of all respondents, expect the one-year and five-year LPRs to stay unchanged.

Among the other six respondents, four predicted a steady one-year LPR but a five- to 20-basis-point reduction to the five-year tenor, while the remaining two projected similar cuts to both rates.

Most new and outstanding loans in the world’s second-largest economy are based on the one-year LPR, now at 3.45%. The five-year LPR, which serves as the mortgage reference rate, is at 3.95% after a February cut to shore up the property market.


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In the latest step to support property, China will allow local government authorities to buy some homes at “reasonable” prices to provide affordable housing, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday. 

The property sector and weak retail continued to drag on the economy last month, even as industrial output beat forecasts, data showed on Friday.

The central bank left a key policy rate unchanged when rolling over maturing medium-term lending facility loans on Wednesday, as a weak currency continued to constrain Beijing’s monetary easing efforts.

Some traders argued that the traditional dividend payment season is looming, when overseas listed Chinese companies have to make foreign exchange purchases to fulfil such payouts to their offshore shareholders.

Such FX payments are expected to pile additional downside pressure to the yuan, which has lost about 1.8% to a resurgent dollar this year. HSBC expects $66 billion worth of dividends are set to be made this year.

However, expectations for a cut to the mortgage reference rate are on the rise after the authorities announced a string of measures to rescue the beleaguered property market, long considered a major drag on the economy.

“Further property de-stocking efforts and timely RRR/LPR cuts as well as the push on equipment upgrade and durables trade-in are essential, in our view, to bring back credit demand,” Citi analysts said in a note.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara


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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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